Big

1973

MY hair still hadn’t grown back. The scabs itched like hell; I couldn’t but claw at them like I had nits. At least I didn’t have to wear those horrible bandages any more.

Until now Daddy used to take my little brother and me to work. The road to the quarry at Kyleakin was a rollercoaster and hanging around the big Howard Doris dumper trucks with their huuuge wheels brought a constant sense of excitement, if not outright danger. We somehow managed not to get killed and Daddy’s work pals didn’t seem to mind our presence.

The short life of Spot, the little mongrel pup we had been given not even months ago only to lose him to the wheels of a neighbour’s car, was fresh in my thoughts. I missed his sharp little fangs nibbling at my fingers, the distinctive puppy smell that lingered in the house for days after he was gone, the curious lining of the inside of his mouth that reminded me of salmon.

The headmaster’s baldy head loomed as I crossed the classroom threshold. Solemn, bespectacled and so much bigger than me, he cut a forbidding figure behind his lectern. It wasn’t just his beady eyes that put the fear of God into me, it was running the gauntlet of being stared at by the Big Ones.

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2020

A Toddler’s Tale

1968-1972

MY EARLIEST memory is of crying for my mother from a cot in a dark room. She never came. My second is of having crawled under my parents’ bedclothes and becoming trapped. Only this time my cries were heard. The third is of batting a faded green plastic telephone off the side of my pushchair. And I was a frequent visitor to the hostipal, not because I got my finger stuck in a dodgy tap, swallowed a penny, got a plastic bead stuck up my nose or chased the budgie until I fell out the window but becauss the nice doctor in Inverness made me wear pink eye patches that smelled funny. In the twilight of my toddlerhood, I thought that the light attached to the wall was a plant and that in order to understand what you were saying in another language, you first had to speak English.

Summer 1972

THE DAY we moved from our dickensian Harrapool cottage to a modern Limepark council house, I must have fallen asleep in transit. The shock of discovering stairs for the first time and not knowing how I had got to the top had me perplexed for hours. With three bedrooms and a proper bathroom, our new home was a palace.

I have very little memory of my maternal granny or my aunt coming all the way from New Zealand to stay within days or weeks of the move. But I do recall the visit to Aiseag Beach on a hot summer’s day, when I dropped a hermit crab down Daddy’s swimming trunks, and our wee holiday in Edinburgh. Daddy stayed at home, while Mummy, my little brother, Grandma, Aunt Judy and I stayed at the guest house on Castle Terrace. We rode the donkeys at Portobello Beach and watched Mary Poppins at the cinema, with lashings of yummy ice cream thrown in. In those days a spoonful of sugar really did help the medicine go down.

Grandma and Judy might even have turned up before we moved, or maybe we were still moving our belongings weeks later, for I could swear it was in the old house that Mummy taught me to say ‘Super-calla-fragll-istic-expi-alli-docious’.

6 October 1972

THE BIG lorry had a tipper on the back. On our return home from Daddy dropping off a load of sand in Inverness and visiting Mummy in hospital, my brother and I sat in the passenger seat. Whether we wore seatbelts, no idea. Probably not.

We stopped at the Cluanie Inn, where I wolfed a bag of salted peanuts and a glass of lemonade. Daddy had his usual pint and whisky, then we were on our way.

The peanuts an’ lemonade, then being hoisted back into the truck, are the last things I remember prior to all my senses being assaulted by the semblance of an almighty drill ploughing through the right side of my skull. Then the distant sight of a red Maxi that stopped to take us to the ferry … my baby brother and I sitting in the back seat clutching hands and staring out the window … the sensation of blood streaming down my neck … whimpering like a lost puppy … the ambliance waiting to take us across the ferry.

I teetered on the edge of consciousness. The lady with the soft platinum hair took my hand.

“Mummy.”

“No, dear, I’m not your mummy.”

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2020

Outer Limits

IN THE memoir-writing circuit, abuse is a recurring theme and writing the best form of therapy, published or not. The abundance of stories seeking an audience is a healthy sign of real cultural change. Less healthy is the sadistic glee when some abuse survivors refuse to entertain protecting the identities of their villains, regardless of the spectre of legal action.

I am of the view that the writer should never take responsibility for how others react to the truth and that wrongdoing should be exposed. However, if a memoirist cannot demonstrate the humanity that was denied to them, then they have learned nothing that will be of real value to their readers. A memoir is about how the writer handled their shit not what So-and-So did to them.

Both ‘perpetrator’ and ‘victim’ are the products of a corrupt value system that first takes us prisoner in the classroom. By the time we reach elementary/primary school, we know all about what ‘it’ is to be a boy or a girl. We are subsequently introduced to a host of other opposites. Something is either good or bad, strong or weak, beautiful or ugly, big or small, nice or nasty, smart or stupid – in-betweenness is viewed with scorn. We are trained to pigeon-hole even ourselves and this can occur in any combination of positives and negatives. The end result of this process, as we are ‘knocked’ into the right shape, is polarisation – some children become bullies, if not abusers, while others become the abused.

So in a sense both parties have been wronged. This way of looking at things creates an environment in which it is easier for the bully/abuser to accept responsibility for their actions and a basis through which some common ground can be achieved. Personally, this is a far more satisfying possibility than revenge.

When all other avenues have been exhausted and if an abuse survivor has no choice but to drop someone in it, a mature writer will show any redeeming qualities that they were aware of. Painting them in as balanced a light as possible will go a long way to reducing the amount of fallout and reduce the likelihood of being accused of being a liar. Intent is everything and karma is still a bitch.

It also falls upon the professing self-healer to shine a light on their own darknesses and failings. The idea that we are a bastion of all that is good and the ‘bad’ guy is scum is not credible and, um, quite frankly, boring.

Causing your outed villain(s) discomfort is inevitable and to a degree, desirable. After all, discomfort is a vital part of the self-healing process and both parties have a right to self-heal. Wanting them to suffer, though, brings you to their level. How can the teller of the story self-heal effectively if they add another layer of baggage by wilfully hurting those that have hurt them (and their families and friends)?

My motto is and always will be “Treat others as you would be treated, not how they treated you.”

********

Note: Yes, my memoir has a ‘villain’ (or two) but, for the avoidance of doubt, GB is not one of them.

As The Crow Flies

crow

MIDNIGHT had long passed and it was raining hard. Visibility was limited to that which was illuminated by the bright flecks of driving rain caught in the beam of the headlights. All else was black.

The dance was now a distant memory. Despite the conditions and a bloodstream full of whisky, the man in the brand new Hillman Imp knew this single-track road from Torrin to Broadford intimately. He had no idea he was getting sloppy but he did concede that he was feeling tired and welcomed the thought of his warm bed.

Just as his eyes were getting a little heavier, the man became aware that he was about to pass the old haunted graveyard. The realisation gave him just enough adrenalin to restore him to a state of wakefulness, for Kilchrist was a place that struck fear into the hearts of anyone that had ever been within its perimeter. The man squinted at the timepiece he pulled from his coat pocket.

Two o’clock. God, was that the time?

The witching hour. His grip on the steering wheel became just that little bit tighter.

II

HAD THE man still been in a stupor, he may have had less of a fright when the creature appeared out of nowhere. What looked like a pair of shiny black wings exploded into view, piercing the driving rain and heading straight for him.

The man slammed his brakes, veering to the other side of the road to avoid lurching forward and flying through the windscreen himself. When the car finally screeched to a halt, he sat for what seemed to him an eternity, his fingers and forehead glued to the upper rim of the steering wheel. It was only when he lifted his head that he realised he had no idea which direction he was facing. Whatever that thing was, it had pulled up and over the vehicle just in time.

But even when the danger appeared to be over, the fear persisted and his darkest imaginings ran wild. He could hear the voice of his mother rambling that this was the work of the Devil and at this very moment, he wondered if she was right. He reached for the glove compartment and pulled out the leatherbound Bible that his mother had insisted he keep with him at all times. Without his spectacles, he drew his comfort just from holding it, reciting the Lord’s Prayer until his heartbeat settled into its near-normal pace and he started to feel foolish. Putting the whole episode down to having drunk too much, he returned the Holy Book to its hiding place.

With no inclination whatsoever to get out of the car to investigate, the man had to switch off the headlights to get his bearings. He reoriented himself in the direction of Broadford and went on his way. When he crept into the house, his parents were asleep and he was quiet as a mouse.

III

IT WAS breakfast and an hour past sunrise. The man’s early morning chores up on the croft had been completed and he was on his second cigarette. His mother drew a bowl of steaming porridge from the cast iron pot perched on the range and placed it in front of him. She said not a word. Her face was more drawn than usual.

His father fixing on him through rings of pipesmoke from the opposite end of the table made the ticking of the grandmother clock on the back wall seem unnaturally loud and the man nervous. His intakes became longer and deeper.

His mother muttered some inaudible excuse and headed outside with a basket of clean washing. Once certain that she was no longer in earshot, the Old Man leaned over the table.

“Iain, is there anything you would like to tell me?”

Mid-draw, Iain stopped in his tracks. He scanned his memory to figure out if he should know the answer to the question.

“I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Well, how do I put it? The Old Man emitted a long puff as he tried to find the right words. “Have you done anything?”

Now Iain’s heart was beating faster. Something was clearly not right.

“Done anything? I still don’t know what you mean.”

“Did you do anything you shouldn’t have?” A shorter pause. “Last night to be exact.”

Iain’s heart stuttered. Sharp intake of breath. A cough. Murky half-faded images from the night before sought form in his head.

“You’re scaring me. If you’re talking about last night, I went to the dance. I danced, had a few drinks and came back. End of story.”

“You sure about that?”

It was hard for Iain to look his father in the eye. The only thing he could think of was that he might have taken a liberty or two with one of the wives, so the look of guilt was unmistakeable.

“Will you please tell me what you’re talking about?”

“You really don’t know ….”

“No! Now will you please tell me.” Panic was setting in. “I don’t want to be late for work.”

The Old Man drew long and hard on his pipe. He was clearly going to stretch this out.

“Well, Iain,” he said, “you must have done something. Not long after you came back to the house, there was a strange and mighty rattling sound coming from the window above your bed.”

“I don’t remember that.”

“No, you wouldn’t. You were fast asleep. Well, I got up to have a look and in the name of the wee man, if it wasn’t a great big black bird trying to get in. It was making one godalmighty commotion, flapping its wings and pecking at the glass with its beak.” He lowered his voice to a near whisper. “It was trying to break the window ….”

Iain’s fingers were trembling, his face ashen, when he stubbed out his last cigarette of the morning.

“Really?”

extract from Close Call: Short and Bittersweet, published April 2015

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2014

The Magic Potion

potion

THERE once lived a man who imbibed a skinful of whisky and fell asleep in his armchair. His wife had long gone to bed, leaving all three bars of the electric fire on. When the man spluttered himself awake in the wee small hours, he became aware of an excruciating sensation in the inside of his left shin and found that his jeans were singed. When he removed them, he realised that although they had not been set alight, they had conducted enough heat to leave a huge burn. In one place there was a dead dark patch where he felt no pain at all, even when he poked it with his finger. Though still groggy from booze, he had enough wits to know what had transpired. He had cooked his leg.

The following morning, his wife persuaded him to get it seen to.

II

THE DOCTOR informed the man that he would require a course of antibiotics and a skin graft as soon as one could be arranged. This was unavoidable and the replacement tissue would be taken from his backside. He should come back in a week.

On leaving the surgery, the man decided no flamin’ chance. And so he paid a visit to the other place. But he was not so stupid as to reveal to the vet why he was asking for a bottle of horse liniment.

III

THE MAN took the antibiotics as directed. And every day his wife was subjected to the foul stink of horse liniment. After a few days of faithfully wrapping his leg in bandages soaked in the odious compound, it looked as though progress was being made. Within a week, well, it was nearly but a scabby indentation and some of the feeling had returned.

It was quite out of character for the man to return to the doctor’s surgery without being pushed but he was keen to gloat at the success of his own ministrations. When he pulled up his trouser leg for the doctor to examine what evidence remained, the latter was close to speechless.

It stuck in the doctor’s throat to admit that he could no longer see any reason for an operation. When the man told him how he had achieved such a miracle, the doctor just said “You cannot be serious”, before suggesting that he could perhaps continue doing whatever he was doing and come back in another week.

The man had no intention whatsoever of letting on that without the antibiotics, his leg would have become so infected from such a rapid healing that it would surely have killed him.

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2015

Lives

8 October 2008

I WAS gutted when the time came to rehome my beloved Muttley. The last moment I set eyes on him was at the kennels. I had arranged for a pet courier to transport him from there to a rescue centre just outside Manchester and, to spare me the agony, the manager had offered to take care of the formalities. It was bad enough leaving him, knowing I would never see him again. I dragged myself to the bus stop, hoping no-one would see my tears through the pissing rain.

31 October 2020

I HAD vowed never to find myself in that position again. Yet here I was. Four stressed foster-cats with behavioural issues, one bullying two of the others, in a one-bedroomed flat, a reduced income and an owner whose hands were tied due to COVID.

I had known for weeks that I would have to take drastic action but had drawn the line at taking them to a cattery, where they might languish for weeks. Now, with the threat of lockdown imminent, having strangers coming to my house was not an option. Besides, I didn’t trust myself to make the right choice in deciding who I could trust to guarantee their welfare.

I had enough food and litter supplies for two until January. After three heart-wrenching days of flip-flopping between trying to soldier on and take two of them to a cat shelter, and which two, my mind was finally made up. The two that I’d caught in flagrante, mother and son. Just as well he’d been neutered.

Getting a suspicious aggressive tom into the carrier was at first easier than I thought, achieved through meticulous cunning on my part. I had never seen such Fury. Much longer and he’d rip the carrier to shreds. Fixated on his claws, I didn’t see the zipper creeping, and before I knew what hit me, he was out, cool as a cucumber. In the end I had to leave him to it in order not to stress him further. Only the mother made it to the shelter. I didn’t relish a fresh attempt on Monday.

4 November 2020

So far so good. Monday was a breeze, made smoother by the administration of valerian extract the day before. The remaining two, Mimi and Robbie, are happier and enjoying the luxury of having a room to themselves – and they’re not bolting their food for fear it’s going to disappear. The neIghbours are happier that it’s quieter at night (touch wood) and I’m happier being able to get my house, and to a degree my mental health, back in order. I am under no illusions – two will still be tough over the winter months but together the ‘kids’ and I have a fightIng chance.

And based on Muttley’s experience of landing on his feet in a forever home most dogs would give their last bone for, I have every confidence that the right people will welcome Tron and Biscuit to their hearts.

Open letter to Gerry Butler II

Dear Gerry

Twenty-five years almost to the day since your mythic departure from Scotland. Twenty-five years since we parted company and my life was turned on its head in ways even you could not possibly imagine. You helped make me the person I am today, so for that you have my heartfelt gratitude.

Thing is, I really need your help. Over the past seven years, I have written a memoir that is nearly ready to publish. It’s one of those stories that has to be told and you are the inciting incident. As with any inspirational memoir, others will benefit from it, only I don’t have the resources to iron out some of the legal issues.

I am so sorry to go public with this but my circumstances dictate that I have to. In the spirit of self-healing, please will you at least read it? I have just published the first two chapters on my website at mkmacinnes.com. For what it”s worth, there’s also a trailer.

Yours in good faith
Morgan

Open letter to Gerry Butler

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Dear Gerry

Twenty-five years almost to the day since your mythic departure from Scotland. Twenty-five years since we parted company and my life was turned on its head in ways even you could not possibly imagine. You helped make me the person I am today, so for that you have my heartfelt gratitude.

Thing is, I really need your help. Over the past seven years, I have written a memoir that is nearly ready to publish. It’s one of those stories that has to be told and you are the inciting incident. As with any inspirational memoir, others will benefit from it, only I don’t have the resources to iron out some of the legal issues.

I am so sorry to go public with this but my circumstances dictate that I have to. In the spirit of self-healing, please will you at least read it? I have just published the first two chapters on my website here. For what it”s worth, there’s also a trailer here.

Yours in good faith
Morgan

THE LOST SECRET (first two chapters)

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For reasons that I won’t go into here, I have decided to scrap any attempt to sell my ‘mini-book’ on Amazon. Why it’s only two chapters and only on Kindle needs too much explanation. Instead, it is available here via the link below. This may be temporary, it may be permanent, I don’t know. We’ll see where this goes.

You can read the first two chapters here.

Although this offering is free, donations are gratefully accepted.

The Quandary

I am by no means an expert in anything but when it comes to being me I am a fucking pro

I’ve sweated these past few days about how to write this post. I had intended to attempt to justify the course of action I am about to take, before then realising that I didn’t have to explain myself at all. Firstly, the circumstances that led me to this juncture are too complex to pack into a single post – secondly, I’ve over-explained myself already – and thirdly, too many spoilers! No amount of explanation can adequately convey what is the most finely sprung state of affairs you can possbly imagine (think tight-ropes, nooses and crocodile clips).

I have no doubt that many will look at my actions and think “What the ****?” Suffice to say that I have agonised long and hard over this and, given the specifics of my circumstances, it is the most appropriate action I can take.

It is what it is. Stay tuned …

M K MacInnes
5 October 2020